Facebook, Shmacebook! If you’re still on the fence about Google+, it’s time to get off and get your account. Google+ users have known for months that this was a better social network for businesses than Facebook, but if you need convincing here’s why Google+ rules and why you need to get a Google+ profile fast.
It’s happening anyway
First of all, you soon won’t have any choice. Google recently made a change to its signup page for new Google or Gmail accounts. Along with Gmail, you now automatically get Google+. That means two things: First, if you’re a small business using Gmail as your main email account, you will automatically be on Google+. Second, your potential customers who use Gmail – and there are already hundreds of millions of Gmail users – will be on Google+. Not all of them will become confirmed users, but at least some of them are bound to check it out and see how it compares.
Google eventually rolls out all its changes to Google Apps, so you have to figure that this is coming to mobile devices soon too – and that will be a huge market. On this point, Facebook isn’t even in the running. When you sign up for Google you get all of Google’s services, which you can manage from a single account.
That means your businesses YouTube channel, your Picasa web album with photos of the company Christmas party – the works. When you sign up for Facebook you get Facebook – no integration with anything. You’ve got to figure that a Google account is the better bet. Speaking of which …
Keeping your business private
Let’s talk about one area where Facebook has always had problems – privacy, and although it’s individuals who have complained the most, businesses can be affected too. There’s a profound difference in philosophy between Facebook and Google. Until they were forced to change because of the weight of public opinion, Facebook took the view that everything you put on Facebook was essentially theirs unless you opted out – and opting out wasn’t simple.
In the wake of Google+, Facebook has had to reverse that, but given their track record, would you trust them? I didn’t think so. Facebook also had the issue of how to share selectively, something that was almost impossible till recently, and even now still requires several clicks to achieve.
In contrast, Google+ has two things going for it. Let’s look at how you share. In Google+ you share to a circle or circles with a click, making it easy to keep private what you want to keep private. And then there’s the question of your data. According to Google, you own it and you can back it up or remove it any time you want. Google Takeout makes it simple. Who couldn’t love an easy interface that allows you to see what data Google is storing and download it with one click? With Google+ your data is yours; with Facebook, it’s only yours till they figure out how to get it. Another win for Google+.
Connecting with your market
Considering that Facebook is supposed to be where you hang out with your fans, it’s surprisingly difficult to connect with them. On a Facebook fan page, your fans can comment on your wall, but unless you add them as personal friends, you can’t return the favor. Most business people don’t want their business contacts and family in the same pool. And even though Facebook has improved the segmentation on personal profiles, it still takes a lot of setting up. There’s no segmentation of your contacts on your fan page and it’s not very easy to get a conversation going.
On Google+ in contrast, it is easy. Conversation is at the heart of this network. Where else can you have honest to goodness conversations with fans of your brand and others in your niche? Take a look at the brand pages for your favorite brands or check out the integration between the Virgin page and founder Richard Branson‘s profile. On Google+ people respond. Add to that the ability for users to find pages, people and brands related to the topics they are interested in and the facility to find out who’s talking about your niche and respond and you can see why Google+ is a winner.
And there’s more. You can IM chat with the people you have circled and hold hangouts where you can talk with them face to face. Hangouts are a killer feature giving you a chance to talk to up to 10 people at a time – and many more during a session – for free. Makes Facebook’s clunky Skype integration look kind of lame, doesn’t it?
Your business and Search Plus
Finally there’s search, and here Facebook isn’t even in the running. Have you ever tried Facebook’s search feature and failed to find a page or person you knew was on there? Wasn’t it frustrating? Facebook’s search features are average at best, while Google has been the king of search for more than a decade. Google isn’t perfect, either, but if you want to find a Facebook page, it’s easier to search for it on Google than on Facebook.
I rest my case.
Google recently announced Search Plus, the integration of results from your social network into Google search results with the click of a button. That means that every time someone clicks a +1 button on your Website, that result could show up in searches made by their friends. If they are on Google+ and talking about your business, that comment could show up in the searches of their friends. And if you have a Google+ page that they like, that could show up in those searches as well.
Being on Google+ will soon become a mark of business credibility. Sure, it’s one more thing to add to your ever lengthening social media list, but you can’t afford not to do it.